Just how well would you fare amidst the zombie apocalypse? The time has come to find out as the worldwide phenomenon that is The Walking Dead finally makes its transition to the video game world. Developed by Telltale Games, The Walking Dead is comprised of five downloadable episodes available on the PlayStation Network, Xbox Live and for PC, beginning with the first episode entitled A New Day.
A New Day begins prior to the Rick Grimes storyline that made the comics and TV show so popular. Players control Lee Everett, a convicted felon on his way to the state penitentiary in the opening scenes of the game. It isn’t long before the car transporting him is forced off the road and Lee makes his escape, only to be confronted by a horde of bloodthirsty zombies. Saved by a lonely young girl called Clementine, Lee sees in her a path for redemption and together the pair set off on the road to nowhere.
The game focuses on similar principles to that of the show, investing in the emotional journeys of the characters rather than attempting to shock the audience with an all-out bloodbath. Anyone expecting Left 4 Dead or Resident Evil may be in for a surprise, as the game could be compared to the point and click adventure games of yesteryear such as the Monkey Island series, rather than a survival horror. Telltale Games are no stranger to adaptation territory having previously taken on the Back To The Future and Jurassic Park franchises, so for anyone who has traveled through time or been chased by a T Rex before, then you’ll feel right at home.
As with any adventure game, The Walking Dead comes with its fair share of puzzles and quests to complete. Using the right joystick as almost like a cursor, players can highlight various objects, characters and parts of the environment in order to search for clues or tools that will come in useful later in the game. Options vary but generally TRIANGLE is used as an observation command, whilst X or SQUARE are action commands, depending on the item or scenario. Not all items and puzzles are essential, but it’s up to players how far you want to go as leaving puzzles unsolved could lead to serious repercussions later in the series. For anyone who wants a really challenging experience, the option is there to turn off the game cursor. However, if this is on a second play through chances are you’ll know exactly where to find the key items as you progress.
Conversations are at the core of the experience. Being a convicted felon isn’t exactly the most noble of job descriptions and it’s up to players to decide how Lee handles himself around the survivors he encounters. Much like the show, some of these survivors are every bit as unhinged as the zombies chasing them and selecting the wrong answer could prove fatal, if not to Lee then to one of the other characters. If that wasn’t enough pressure, these conversational decisions are timed, meaning that players have to rely on gut instinct and sheer impulse in making their choice. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.
Adding insult to injury, the game makes a note of how you respond to different scenarios and one famous face in particular points out that trust is vital during this time of suffering and bloodshed. Some of the more astute characters will pick on Lee’s responses while others will make the wrong assumptions based on hearsay. One particularly grisly scene doesn’t involve zombies in the slightest as it’s up to Lee and his fellow survivors to make a decision when they stumble across a woman who not only has been bitten, but is slowly and surely going insane. Similar to the conversational system that put Mass Effect on the map, one simple response in The Walking Dead could have tons of repercussions.
Quick time events also feature heavily in the game. Generally prominent during the more intense sequences of the game, most of these could mean the difference between life and death, and that doesn’t just include the mortality of the lead character. Once again, the decision factor comes into play and after completing The Walking Dead these key decisions will be compared to those of other players around the world to see just how much of a saint or sinner you really are. Of course, in order to keep up with the continuity of the comics and show, there are some events that can’t be altered and in those cases one of these tough decisions will inevitably lead to certain survivors either accepting you as your leader, or damning you straight to hell. It’s a great concept that really escalates the game from spin-off status, to side-story altogether. As the episode comes to the end, it even teases the next one with a “Next time on The Walking Dead,” sequence to really give it that extra authenticity.
Graphically, the game looks and feels perfect. Adopting a similar art style to that of the comic book series, characters and backgrounds have that gorgeous hand drawn and inked look. It also adds authenticity to the possibility of this addition to The Walking Dead universe as being considered canon. In that respect, familiar faces from the series will adopt the comic book interpretation rather than mimicking the look and attitude of their on screen counterparts. Going beyond the realms of the interactive comic book, it’s a real treat seeing these characters quite literally “jump off the page” and be as mobile as any CGI or 3D rendered model the world of gaming has to offer. It’s a very unique experience that just might set the benchmark for future comic-to-game adaptations - give it a few years and they’ll be doing it.
Each episode is very reasonably priced at around £3.99, or alternatively a season pass granting access to all five episodes as they arrive can be purchased for between £15-£20. Given the amount of decisions that are accessible in the game then either purchase could be considered great value for money. Three save game slots are available at the start giving you plenty of room to alter your choices and see how each pathway plays out. Episode 1 takes around two to three to hours to complete which may not seem like an awful lot, but factor in the choice experimentation and you’re set to get plenty of bang for your buck. Anyone who has experienced the Mass Effect series from multiple points of view will feel right at home, and due to the shortness of the game, these can easily be experienced in one to two sittings.
The Walking Dead isn’t your ordinary video game adaptation. Providing a whole new pack of survivors, each with their own load of emotional baggage, this new addition to the The Walking Dead universe can certainly be seen as an expansion on the series rather than a simple spin-off.